Best of 2021 Q&A: Richard Warnica

Richard Warnica appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Rothko at the Inauguration.” You can read it at Hazlitt.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Richard’s answers:


How did you start working on this story?
I got the idea for the piece while covering Donald Trump’s inauguration for the National Post. After many (many) false starts, I sold a much revised pitch to Hazlitt in late spring 2019.

How long did it take to write this piece?
From original idea to publication it was four years and 11 months.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?
Figuring out a structure that would connect the narrative threads, allow the themes to emerge organically, and keep the reader engaged through a pretty long piece.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?
I used to try to write until I was done no matter how long it took. I can’t do that anymore. Now I write in chunks of a few hours at most with walks in between and I try to never work past midnight.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?
That is a very big question! I’m not sure I’ve processed the last two years enough to give a decent answer. I did quit coffee during the pandemic (anxiety, etc.) and I now drink tea instead, lots and lots of tea, so that’s different.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?
I spent so long with this piece and the materiel that it’s hard to remember what surprised me at the time. Maybe the fact that after everything, I still love the paintings as much as I do is surprising. You’d think I’d be sick of them by now but I’m really not. They’re still magic to me.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?
I’ve had a lot of really lovely notes, public and private, about the piece. I had no idea how it was going to land so that’s been really gratifying.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?
You won’t always have the tools you need to write a story when you start out. So don’t be afraid of feeling lost in the process. Keep pushing and learning and eventually (hopefully?) you’ll figure it out.

What writing projects are you working on currently?
None! I have some ideas for Star stories I’ll work on after Christmas and a book idea I may or may not get back to at some point but for now my slate is clean.

Find Richard on Twitter: @richardwarnica
This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Nicholas Hune-Brown

Nicholas Hune-Brown appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “The Shadowy Business of International Education.” You can read it at The Walrus.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Nick’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I pitched The Walrus a story in 2018 that was supposed to be about students from China. 

How long did it take to write this piece?

I worked on this on and off for three years before it was published. Over those years I’ve had to reimagine my feature over and over again, as the facts on the ground have changed and COVID upended the world I was writing about. 

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

The tricky things with this piece were pretty much the tricky things about any complicated story. First, just talking to enough people and doing enough reading to figure out *what’s going on*. And then working out how to tell readers what’s going on in a way that’s dramatic, true, interesting, affecting, etc. It took a long time to find the characters that would sit at the centre of the story.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

I had two young kids at home in the middle of a pandemic, so I’m not precious! I just write from wherever I am, whenever I can.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

See above, but also trying to create scenes, etc, when just about all of my reporting was done over the phone and Zoom.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

I knew the broad outlines of this story—the millions of dollars at stake, the huge shifts in global migration—but the specific details of people’s experiences struck me most during my reporting.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

The response has been really positive, which is a huge relief. I am forever terrified I’ve just got my story completely wrong (not that I’ve screwed up the facts, but that I’ve somehow missed something enormous and fundamental that changes how I should be thinking about the subject). But after publication I heard from a whole bunch of grateful international students, as well as college faculty, who said my story matches their experience.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

I really have no tips, unfortunately. I find the whole process difficult and mysterious

What writing projects are you working on currently?

A bunch of stories that are too delicate and unformed to risk talking about!

Find Nick on Twitter: @nickhunebrown

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Tori Marlan

Tori Marlan appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Penniless.” You can read it at Capital Daily.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Tori’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I first learned about David Johnston while interviewing a man who takes in precariously-housed people. I was in the man’s living room, talking with him and someone who was living in his yard in a van, when he mentioned that someone in the house hadn’t used money in nearly two decades. I asked for an introduction.

How long did it take to write this piece?

Two and a half months.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

Figuring out the structure of a story is always the most challenging part of writing for me. But a unique challenge to reporting this profile was that David’s communication channels were limited. I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call him, because he had no cell service.

The best way to reach him—and really one of the only ways—was through Twitter DMs. So that’s how we arranged our in-person meetings and how we “talked” between interviews. My ability to reach him depended on whether he was able to pick up free wifi, so I knew that at any given point he could be unreachable for an extended period of time.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

No, but my best writing hours are in the morning after I’m caffeinated.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

Being masked during interviews. Each of my interviews with David lasted for at least a couple of hours. I find it uncomfortable to be masked for that long, so there may have been times I ended the interviews before their natural stopping point, which is not something I’d recommend and not something I’m accustomed to doing.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

It’s hard to choose just one thing. I was surprised by the combination of luck and ingenuity that allowed David (no doubt along with his privilege) to get by for so long without using money. I was also surprised when he told me that he had children and that he’d had them after giving up money.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

This was Capital Daily’s second most-read story of all time. It was widely shared in Canada (thanks, GCL!) and the US, and was translated and published by a news organization in Japan. 
Readers felt strongly about the profile—and its subject.

Some made it clear that they don’t respect David’s choices. They consider him to be selfish and/or irresponsible, and they don’t think he’s worthy of a 6,700-word profile. Others think he’s a fascinating person who raises important questions about how we live. They also appreciate the historical aspect of the story, which is David’s involvement in the constitutional legal battle that changed the way Victoria interacts with its unhoused population.

I also heard from people who wanted to connect with David—to offer assistance, or collaborate with him on a skills-sharing website, or interview him for a documentary. In all cases he gave me permission to pass along his contact info.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

I find it helpful to put my stories aside for a few days after I have a first draft. That way I can re-engage them with fresh eyes. Having distance from a story makes it easier to find errors or holes in the reporting, and it’s a key part of my editing and polishing process.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

In January I’ll be starting a project on restorative justice. I also have a few other ideas brewing but it’s too early to talk about them.

Find Tori on Twitter: @ToriMarlan

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

GCL New Faces Winners Q&As

The three winners of the Great Canadian Longform New Faces of 2021 contest were Claire Bradbury, Yannick Mutombo and Wednesday Bell. This fall each received a $100 cash prize, a mentorship chat with GCL editor Rob Csernyik and assistance with developing pitches for their pieces. Hopefully you’ll be reading work from these writers soon in a Canadian newspaper, magazine or digital outlet. The below Q&As give you a chance to learn more about these emerging writers, and if you’re an editor and their story strikes you — contact us and we’ll put you in touch.

CLAIRE BRADBURY: “You, Me and the RV

Written as an assignment for “Advanced Feature Writing” at Ryerson University

Tell us about your winning piece in 50 words or fewer.

CB: This piece describes how the RV lifestyle for travelling and living provides a unique opportunity for people to explore different places. My story discusses the environmental, economical and historical background to RVing. After all, it’s no secret that RV’s are a fun way to travel.

What inspired you to pick this topic?

CB: I’ve wanted to write this story for a long time. Growing up travelling with my family in our RV, I saw the value in this alternative way to travel and experience vacations. Especially with COVID-19 restrictions, I knew that people would be looking for ways to get out while doing it safely. My passion came through and it felt rewarding to write about something that I think is very special not only for my family but for lots of other people as well.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

CB: I found it difficult to narrow down everything that I wanted to write about. I could have gone on and on and included a lot more details and perspectives, however I had a word limit to stick to for my instructors. There was so much to share and I wanted to do each section justice, but I had to keep my word count in mind. Even after I had written a ton, it was also difficult to edit and cut out parts that I wanted to include. I’m overall proud of how it turned out and happy that I could share this piece as a longform story.

Was there advice or feedback your writing instructor gave you that was particularly helpful in writing your piece?

CB: For my class, we went through three drafts of writing all semester long and received feedback in great detail after each one. After getting my first draft back, my instructor told me that he liked hearing my own personal stories about how my family used our RV. It motivated me to change the tone of my writing and make my story sound more personable. I knew I wanted to give a lot of voice to the piece and I’m grateful my instructor pushed me to do so even more.

Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading most?

CB: I’ve always appreciated the reporting and coverage that Stephanie Apstein does for Sports Illustrated. She’s thorough with her work and doesn’t hold back when it comes to important issues to discuss. I chose to highlight her piece on the MLB’s attitude towards domestic violence for a class I was taking because of how well written and timely it was. I’ve also had the privilege to work with some talented young journalists at The Pigeon, which is a youth-led publication. Tegwyn Hughes, Josh Kozelj, Maia Herriot and Leila El Shennawy are a few of the writers I admire for their dedication and attention to detail.

Do you have particular topics you like writing about (or would like to write about) most?

CB: I find it difficult to narrow down what particular topics I like to write about the most. I love to write stories about people and their passions, what’s important to them and how they are contributing to their communities. It can range anywhere from buying thrifted clothes online to how excited fans are to see the Blue Jays return home again. I’m hoping to dive into a specific niche of writing in my future, but for now I’m happy to explore and try new topics.

What are the next steps you’d like to take in professional writing?

CB: I’d like to start pitching and working with other publications on a freelance basis. I gained a lot of experience and sharpened my skills during school, so now I want to apply myself more. Now that I have more confidence in myself and my abilities, I want to try my best to get my work out there. I’m excited to never stop learning and growing as I move forward with my journalism career.

YANNICK MUTOMBO: “If it don’t make dollars, then it don’t make sense”

Written as an assignment for “Advanced Workshop in Creative Non-fiction” at the University of Ottawa.

Tell us about your winning piece in 50 words or fewer.

YM: My piece is about being in a difficult situation and taking a risk to get out of it. Doing something bold that pays off, but you don’t know for how long. Showing that things like sex work aren’t always about empowerment, sometimes people just want to keep the lights on.

What inspired you to pick this topic?

YM: When I found out my friend “Mona” (a pseudonym) did OnlyFans, I wanted to know what it’s like. Plus, with the pandemic and everything, I knew there was something to say about side-hustle culture, how it’s evolved with the internet, and the pressures young people are facing to make ends meet.

Also, I saw a lot of opportunity to muse on the socio-political implications of sex work being so easily accessible and profitable, particularly in regards to young women.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

YM: I wanted to challenge myself by writing in Mona’s voice, from my perspective. It was difficult to find a balance between my own narrative style and the way she spoke naturally; I don’t know that I completely pulled it off.

Was there advice or feedback your writing instructor gave you that was particularly helpful in writing your piece?

YM: Read your stuff out loud and kill your darlings. (You like that line because it’s corny, not because it’s good.)

Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading most?

YM: Zadie Smith, Alice Munro, James Baldwin.

Do you have particular topics you like writing about (or would like to write about) most?

YM: I write a lot of personal essays about various afro-diasporic subjects. This was my first time writing on something not related to those things or centered on my own experience. I’d like to write more pieces like this.

What are the next steps you’d like to take in professional writing?

YM: Get published in a major publication.

WEDNESDAY BELL: “Live music has an accessibility problem. COVID-19 is making things better.”

Written as an assignment for “Developing Form and Repurposing Writing” at Humber College

Tell us about your winning piece in 50 words or fewer.

WB: When the pandemic forced concerts to move online, many disabled music fans realized that they not facing the accessibility challenges they had experienced at in-person concerts. My article explores why this was the case and what lessons about accessibility the live music industry can carry forward post-pandemic.

What inspired you to pick this topic?

WB: I’m both disabled and a huge music fan. I attended concerts regularly pre-pandemic and often noticed that many, if not most, of the venues I attended had accessibility problems. However, I never really saw anyone discussing the issue.

When the pandemic happened and concerts moved online, I noticed how online concerts were more accessible to me personally, then noticed other disabled music fans talking about how they also found online concerts more accessible. However, they were worried to the push to return to in-person concerts would be a return to inaccessible concerts. I wanted to write about this and examine how the music industry can begin to address this huge, long-ignored issue.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

WB: I interviewed three amazing people for my piece, all of whom are both disabled and heavily involved in the performing arts industry. Each provided a great deal of information and perspective about the issue of venue accessibility, and I ended up having long and detailed conversations with all of them.

I ended up with lots of great information to use in my piece, which was amazing. However, it was also a challenge because I now had to figure out how to condense all of this wonderful, detailed, wide-ranging information into a structured, cohesive piece of writing. Adding to this challenge was that my sources had also brought up issues that I hadn’t even considered before speaking with them, such as the experiences of disabled music industry workers working in inaccessible spaces.

I got overwhelmed by all this information and trying to figure out what include and not include in my piece.

Was there advice or feedback your writing instructor gave you that was particularly helpful in writing your piece?

WB: My instructor helped me out by reminding me to focus on the story I wanted to tell in my piece. By doing that, I was able to see what information fit into the story and what didn’t.

Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading most?

WB: Recently, I read Sarah Kurchak’s memoir I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, which I absolutely loved and found hilarious and relatable. I also enjoy reading writers including Samra Habib, Alicia Elliott, Desmond Cole, Eternity Martis, and Anthony Oliveira.

Do you have particular topics you like writing about (or would like to write about) most?

WB: As you can probably tell, I enjoy writing about disability issues. Around 1 in 5 Canadians have at least one disability, but I don’t often see disabled people or disability issues being discussed in the media. I’m hoping to help change that. Besides disability, I also enjoy culture writing, particularly music writing.

What are the next steps you’d like to take in professional writing?

WB: Right now, I’m focusing on starting a freelance writing career by pitching and writing pieces whenever I have the time. Over the next few months, I’m hoping to publish more pieces and start getting my byline out there. Modest goals, but hopefully attainable ones.

All responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Let’s not forget we’re choosing our politicians while the world burns down around us

“To be clear: It is the responsibility of high-office holders to put policies in place that will facilitate positive systemic change; it’s also their responsibility to hold large polluting companies to account. If Canada were anywhere close to meeting its own climate targets, Wilkinson’s support of Shell’s advertising ploy might have been forgivable. But we’re not. And until we are, the only message we should be hearing from politicians like Wilkinson or companies like Shell is what they are doing to decarbonize. That being said, let’s not forget who’s been choosing our politicians while the world burns down around us.”

Arno Kopecky – The Narwhal – August 2021

Great Canadian Longform’s New Faces of 2020-21 Contest

Every semester, journalism and writing students across the country create longform pieces as projects for class, but most of them go unpublished. When I think back to the creative non-fiction course I took as an undergraduate, very few of the pieces created (including my own) ever saw the light of day.

That’s why Great Canadian Longform is excited to launch its first-ever contest to try and bring some of these works to the wider world. Please read on for contest details. Further details on judging will be announced after the submission period is closed. There are no “places” or “ranks” in this contest. We expect to announce the winners in late August 2021.

To encourage the widest variety of submissions, there is no entry fee and no age restriction to participate in this contest.

At least three winners will receive:

-A $100 cash prize

-Feedback on their piece and assistance with crafting a pitch and placing their piece with a Canadian magazine, newspaper or digital outlet (No guarantees, but we’ll do our best to help!)

-A Q&A about them and their piece posted at GCL’s website and shared with our audience

Our goal is that these prizes will help boost the profiles of these emerging writers, while also hopefully creating an opportunity for them to publish their work and get paid. Pieces on all topics are welcomed from personal essays to reported features.

Eligibility to enter:

-Your piece was written for an undergraduate feature writing/creative non-fiction/journalism class taken in 2020-21 at a Canadian university/college (All majors/concentrations welcome to apply)

-Your primary residence is in Canada

-Your piece has a minimum word count of 2,000 (Sorry, no exceptions.)

-Your piece has not yet been published elsewhere online

-At the time of entry you haven’t been published outside of student media or a personal blog/website. (This is to encourage writers who haven’t yet had the opportunity to publish and build a portfolio and connections with other Canadian media outlets.)

Dos and Don’ts

Do:

-Do send all entries to greatcanadianlongform@gmail.com

-Do email your piece as a PDF with your last name and page numbers on each page.

-Do put the following information in your email body: Your first and last name, academic institution, course and instructor name, the title of your piece, a short description of how/why you chose the topic of your piece (up to 100 words) and a brief personal bio (up to 50 words).

Don’t

-Don’t send in multiple entries. (One per person please!)

-Don’t submit academic papers. This is strictly a contest for nonfiction essays and reported features.

-Don’t submit something you wrote specifically for this contest. Our goal is to recognise pieces that were worked on as class projects. (We will verify this for winning entries.)

How to submit:

Please email submissions (information in email body, piece attached as a PDF) to Rob Csernyik at greatcanadianlongform@gmail.com

The deadline for submissions is Friday, June 18, 2021 at 11:59 PM Pacific.

Questions?

Please email us with any questions, but note that it may take us a few days to get back to you.

Good luck,

Rob Csernyik

Editor, Great Canadian Longform

FAQs on GCL’s Patreon Account

1.-Why is Great Canadian Longform starting a Patreon account?

GCL is starting a Patreon account with two strategies in mind. First, to allow me (editor Rob Csernyik) to turn this venture into a part-time job instead of a mere passion project. A portion of funds received from patrons will allow me to set aside time from paid writing projects to work on GCL, creating new opportunities for readers and writers and growing the platform. The second strategy is to produce original content for readers, a goal impossible to reach without financial backing and reader support.

2.-How will you stay accountable for these goals?

GCL will produce a short, quarterly update (and a more detailed annual report) outlining progress on goals and how money was spent during the period in question. Because we’re launching the Patreon account with one month left in the 2021’s first quarter, a combined Q1/Q2 report will be released in early July.

3.-How will Rob get paid?

At $15 an hour, to a max of $900.00 monthly starting out. (This equals 15 hours a week of GCL-related work.) This wage will go towards offsetting the time spent on research and daily sharing of pieces, creating newsletters and working towards the short and long-term project goals outlined on our Patreon page.

4.-Why is $1500 the minimum goal for commissioning or partnering on content?

The minimum rate I’d like to pay for pieces commissioned by GCL is $500. I would also set aside $100 per piece for myself to support in-house editing. We anticipate contributing an equivalent figure to partner pieces.

5.-What sort of original content does GCL hope to publish?

To start I’d like to focus on personal essays and/or profiles in the 3,000-word range. I’m particularly interested in stories that have a sense of place in Canadian communities that don’t always get a lot of play on our site. (For example, the Atlantic Provinces, Manitoba, Northern Ontario or the Territories.)

As far as reported features/investigative work I’m interested in partnering with other smaller digital outlets and magazines to split costs and editing work in order to produce this type of content. My hope is that together we could produce the sort of work (and offer a rate to the writer) that each publication couldn’t on their own.

6.-Can publications which may wish to partner reach out to GCL?

Yes. I’m interested in hearing from you even if we may not start doing this sort of work for several months.

7.-Can individual writers start pitching GCL content?

No. Once we’ve reached our goal and are ready to accept pitches there will be a public call for pitches. Please stay tuned to our newsletter or Twitter account for more information. Thanks for your patience.

8.-What does it mean that an extra portion of Avid Reader Gold patronages offer a devoted contribution to content?

This money will be earmarked for partner projects only and will not be used for other purposes.

9.-What about any opportunities not currently listed in your goals (such as a podcast)? Do you have other ideas for the future?

Technically, the sky’s the limit, but to start I’ve selected these projects because I believe they fit well with GCL’s mission and offer opportunities to grow incrementally and sustainably. (But yes, a podcast is of interest down the road.)

Further questions? Please send us an email or Twitter message. Thanks for your support.

Best of 2020 Q&A: Andrew Duffy

Andrew Duffy appears on our Best of 2020 list for the piece “The Boy Called Vimy.” You can read it at the Ottawa Citizen.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Andrew’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

Vimy’s drowning was covered as a news story in early July, but his name wasn’t released by police and his family didn’t come forward so the event quickly disappeared from local media. But Vimy’s death notice appeared in the paper and I emailed his mother one month after the tragedy, saying I would like to write about her son. I received a kind reply in mid-September.

How long did it take to write this piece?

I worked on the story off-and-on for a month.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

The key challenge was to capture the personality of a 14-year-boy in a meaningful and honest way. Vimy’s parents, Eilis and Justin, graciously facilitated interviews with Vimy’s teachers, coaches, relatives and friends. Together, they offered me the anecdotes that are the lifeblood of any profile.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

At this point in my career, my writing process is fairly well established. I start with a single paragraph that captures the essence of what I’m seeking to write: A boy full of mirth and mischief, kindness and confidence, Vimy Grant died as the sun set on the first Friday in July: He leapt into the water from the Prince of Wales Bridge and never resurfaced. His family and friends are now trying to come to terms with that terrible accident – and navigate their river of grief. I then decide on the narrative structure: Where in the timeline do I want the story to begin? How to build in suspense? How will the timeline move? I write and interview intensively, full-time, until I have my first draft.

After that, I obsessively rewrite, edit, fuss, edit, rewrite and fuss. This is part-time work and is always well-served by changes of scene: For some reason, I’m a much better editor on the couch, fortified with bourbon.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

This was an extraordinarily difficult story and the pandemic made it harder still. I had several emotional meetings with Vimy’s parents, and it felt unnatural to maintain physical distance when people are so much in pain. I would have also liked to visit Vimy’s bedroom – to understand it as a microcosm of a 14-year-old boy’s world – but that just wasn’t possible.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject during the process?

Vimy was a compelling young man. Unusual for a 14-year-old boy, he was physically affectionate with his parents – he hugged them at the hockey rink – and thoughtful (he wrote to thank his Grade 8 teacher). He was also scared of spiders and heights. The latter was a fear he had to overcome to climb to the top of the Prince of Wales Bridge.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

The story was well received because it solved the mystery of what happened on the bridge that night while offering a portrait of a boy in full. Many parents, I think, could imagine their own child taking the same kind of risk. I think readers also recognized the immense courage of Vimy’s parents in sharing their grief.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

The best writing tip I was ever given came to me from former Toronto Star city editor Lou Clancy who told me I had to become a better reporter if I was to be a better writer. It is a plain and simple truth: If you don’t push yourself in the reporting phase to better understand your subjects, unearth anecdotes, detail and truth, no other writing tip matters.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

Right now, I’m working on a feature about the only man in Canada who has been investigated twice for serial murder.

Find Andrew on Twitter: @citizenduffy

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

GCL reading list: 2020’s Best of Canadian COVID-19 longform

Last year, during a particularly quiet week for Canadian longform I ran a week of themed archived content because I needed to build a reserve of new pieces.

For someone used to sharing six new pieces a week (plus one from the archives) I started to wonder if COVID-19 might cause a long-term disruption in the genre. In its place, I noticed a rise in quick hits, Q&As and other forms of writing as media outlets grappled with the pandemic sweeping the globe.

But over time, I noticed a steady return of the sort of writing we share, much of it shaped by COVID-19.

When looking through the pieces GCL shared related to COVID-19 (more than a month’s worth of daily shares, for the record) I wanted to celebrate stories that were well-crafted and really captured feelings, moods and questions about Canadian life during the pandemic.

Here are six pieces we’ve previously shared about COVID-19 ranging from a nursing home tragedy, to the disruption of mourning, to one writer’s experience in an isolation hotel. They are listed in the order they were released.

Thanks for reading,

Rob Csernyik

GCL Editor

“What went wrong in Bobcaygeon: How the COVID-19 pandemic killed 29 people at an ill-prepared nursing home”

Sam Riches – National Post – April 2020

“Your Brain on COVID-19”

Carolyn Abraham – The Walrus – May 2020

“The pandemic has disrupted death and mourning in ways we don’t yet understand”

Christina Frangou – Maclean’s – July 2020

“This Toronto teen lost his mom to COVID-19. Now he’s starting the school year without his fiercest ally”

Jennifer Yang – Toronto Star – September 2020

“A Long-Term Tragedy”

Simon Lewsen – The Local – November 2020

“Here’s what it’s like inside Toronto’s COVID-19 isolation hotel”

Emma McIntosh – National Observer – December 2020

Best of 2020 Q&A: Vicky Mochama

Vicky Mochama appears on our Best of 2020 list for the piece “Black Communities Have Known about Mutual Aid All Along.” You can read it at The Walrus.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Vicky’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I have wanted to write about mutual aid and money pools for a long time. I’ve been talking to Caroline Hossein, the York University professor who has spent a long time studying informal economies and women running them, for years now and looking for a way to tell this story. But the inspiration to really resurface this history and practice came about during the pandemic when I started hearing more about different forms of mutual aid, especially the idea of them as a novel strategy. I pitched it to The Walrus and the lovely and very patient Hamutal Dotan said yes.

How long did it take to write this piece?

It took around three months from pitch to getting page proofs.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

Writing it.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

I print every version of the piece and do rewrites by hand.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

I write as often as I can about Black people and Black communities; many of the conditions highlighted by the pandemic already existed for Black folks. A key point of the piece is, in fact, that Black people have been in a state of emergency for ages so many of the solutions people turned to were ones that had already been embedded in our communities. If anything, everyone I wanted to speak to was busier than ever.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

I’ve really loved hearing from people who are not Black about how mutual aid looks and has historically worked for their communities.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

I’m still learning so much myself that any tips I have to offer would be ones I haven’t tried.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

Grand apologies for emails that I haven’t responded to.

Find Vicky on Twitter: @vmochama

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.